* Desertec, Medgrid sign deal on future cooperation
* Medgrid aims to spend 5 billion euros on five power links
* Distributing energy across Europe, North Africa aids
BRUSSELS, Nov 24 Unrest in North Africa
has set back in the short term ambitious plans to develop solar
energy for use locally and in Europe, but for the longer term
the region's abundant sunshine offers huge investment potential,
the head of France's Medgrid said on Thursday.
The grid alliance's chairman Andre Merlin was speaking after
signing a memorandum of understanding on future cooperation with
solar project group Desertec, backed by the European Commission,
which is keen to increase its supplies of renewable and reliable
"In the short term, it (the Arab Spring) is very
unfavourable, but for the longer term, these countries have to
develop and energy is a key element of development. I am
confident for the medium term and long term perspective," Merlin
Medgrid, with founders including power and grid firms Alstom
, Areva, EDF and RTE was
set up in Paris in 2010, with plans to develop grid
infrastructure across North Africa and into Europe.
In all it is seeking to build five interconnections at a
cost of around 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion), including between
Tunisia and Italy.
The Commission has taken the view that Medgrid is a natural
complement to Germany's 400 billion euro Desertec Industrial
Initiative, which will use mirrors to harness the sun's rays to
produce steam and drive turbines for electricity generation in
the Sahara region within the next decade.
Its goal is to analyse how to develop clean energy in the
deserts of North Africa that could supply up to 15 percent of
Europe's power demand by 2050.
"By joining efforts and coordinating their approaches, the
two initiatives take a truly European dimension," EU Energy
Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a statement.
"There is now a concrete perspective of solar and wind
energy being produced for the joint benefit of European and
Northern African and Middle Eastern citizens, as well as for the
benefit of both markets."
($1 = 0.7490 euros)
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Rex Merrifield)